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Inclusion through the eyes of children

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As part of our Inclusion and Awareness trainingAdvocacy for Inclusion was recently invited to talk at a local primary school on the topic of Human Rights and Disability Rights.

In front of me was 60 year 4 students between the ages of 9 and 10. A potentially rather daunting experience, however, the welcome I received was genuinely warm and inviting. The students were all very engaged and eager to learn. A perfect audience. To my surprise, the students already had an incredible understanding of human rights and were able to share examples of how we use them in our everyday lives. 

Several things stood out to me in the short time I was there. Two specific things: Firstly - It didn't take long after talking about the correct use of language in regards to disability, to see them put it to use consistently.

And secondly - the biggest and most telling moment of all was a question I was asked towards the end of my visit. 

“Do the police arrest people just because they have a disability?”

Now I would have liked to have said no. In fact, that would seem the logical and only acceptable answer but I couldn't. In our experience at Advocacy for Inclusion, this IS something that we come across on a regular basis. 

It hit me hard. How is it that a 9-year-old child was able to connect these dots, yet despite many years of many Disability Advocacy Organisations trying to bring this issue to the attention of government, it has been minimally acknowledged.

A 9-year-old could see the inequality and point out the breach of human rights and disability rights.

We discussed this a bit further. I shared the statistics with the children  - 60% of people in custody identify as having a disability and the reverse side - that people with a disability were 40% more likely to be a victim of abuse and assault. 

As this info was processed another question  - "are there special police to help". 

Again a 9-year-old seeing the issue and practicality then coming up with a logical solution. 

Frustratingly here in the ACT, despite people with disability being the largest of minority groups - there is no official police Disability Liaison Officer. 

However, it isn't all doom and gloom. Advocacy for Inclusion has been funded to develop and deliver a Specialist Justice Orientation Program and resources to support people with disabilities to better understand and participate in the justice process they are involved in. This program is being funded through Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) funding from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

Last year Advocacy for Inclusion developed wallet cards for people with disability in consultation with the Australian Federal Police - more information about the wallet cards can be found here AFP-wallet-card

Hopefully in the near future, if I am asked again I can tell this very insightful group of students, that no, people with disability are treated fairly and have equal access and involvement in the justice system and not ever a target for police just because they have a disability. Because as we all know that that would be a breach of human rights and disability rights.

 

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